Documentaries can be many different things, but for me personally, I often find the ones focusing on a person, while also telling a bigger story, to be the most fascinating. This documentary about street fashion photographer Bill Cunningham is a great example of this.
Bill Cunningham rides around New York on his bike day and night, taking photos of street fashion as well as observing high society during various charity events. Everyone knows of him, but hardly anyone seem to know him well. Even people who has worked with him for ages have no idea about his personal life or how he spends his time when he is not taking photographs. As the movie unfolds you realize that being a photographer is his life – he even sleeps between the storing cabinets that holds all his negatives. His tiny apartment has neither a kitchen or a bathroom “who needs them, just more rooms to clean” he laments when faced with having to move.
I have known of his photos for decades. but I’m an even bigger admirer know. Despite pushing the 80’s he is roaming the streets endlessly, looking for trends and patterns, while also heralding the eccentrics the drag queens, the bold. The documentary is done with a very respectful, gentle hand, while still being close to the subject. In fact the directors weren’t allowed to set appointments with Bill, instead they waited outside his home, his work, his functions to see if he was in the mood to be filmed. You would expect that such conditions would create a stiff movie, but the result is instead very spontaneous and relaxed, just like Bill’s photos.
I will definitely put this on the must-see list, so if you have yet to catch this wonderful movie, you are in for a treat! It’s available on DVD.